From Mr. Yale to Spring Fling, YSAC ripens

It’s the moment that we’ve all been waiting for — the day we get to finally announce who’s performing for Spring Fling. I’ll spare you the details of our lineup, as you probably already saw the headline on the front page, read the article and debated it with your friends. As this year marks the Yale Student Activities Committee’s fifth anniversary, I’d instead like to discuss how the YSAC has succeeded and how it has come up short.

YSAC has changed dramatically since its creation in the fall of 2003. Originally, it was a 12-member committee that was made up of representatives elected by students, like now. However, it was very much a YCC subcommittee until the spring of 2005 when Yalies could elect their YSAC chair for the first time.

Initially, students were confused about the purpose of YSAC and how it related to the YCC. A central question arose: Is YSAC just a part of the YCC, or is it its own group? And establishing the YSAC chair offered an answer to it. Now, with a leader, the committee functioned independently of YCC and had the potential to establish its own credentials, making itself a relevant on-campus organization all on its own.

Over the past five years, YSAC has had trouble recruiting committee members and some elections still go uncontested. Because of the responsibilities given to YSAC, competitive elections could only help it become a better and more effective organization by ensuring the commitment of it potential candidates .

The YCC constitution states that “YSAC is responsible for producing the Fall Show, Winter Ball and Spring Fling each year.” Suffice to say, if that’s all that we did, our job would be complete. Since those days, YSAC has incorporated the Winter Arts Festival, Mr. Yale Pageant and S’wings Wing-Eating Contest to its annual lineup. This year, we also planned Dancing with the Stars, Yale-a-Palooza and the upcoming “Sunday Funday,” which will feature a wiffle-ball tournament. Although some students would want us to pour our entire budget into Spring Fling, I have always advocated trying to arrange as diverse and imaginative a schedule of events as we can put on. At every event in the end, you have the choice to attend or not to attend, but at least you have to opportunity to make that decision.

This year also served as a trial run for the Social Cup, a yearlong program where the residential colleges participate in competitions at various collegewide events such as the Mr. Yale Pageant. Winners of these contests would earn points for their college, and at the end of the year, a champion will be crowned. By invoking the competitive spirits of the colleges, this initiative aims to further excite and inform students about activities across campus as well bring YSAC closer to the student activities committees of individual colleges and other student organizations.

However, the Social Cup’s first year has suffered from a lack of publicity and few Social Cup events in the spring. Yet, it shows promise. When it creates an overflowing crowd in the Calhoun dining hall for a Soulja Boy Dance-off at Trolley Night, you know that you have a success. With some tweaking and further promotion, the Social Cup will be perceived as a great addition to campus life.

As YSAC’s fifth year of production comes to an end, we look toward putting on a phenomenal Spring Fling. The hardest and most rewarding aspect of being on YSAC is selecting acts that will get the entire campus excited. Sometimes you have to be willing to take chances. For example, by going against the convention of bringing a high-profile comedian like Sarah Silverman or Bob Saget, we brought in Mike Birbiglia and the Comedy Central Live Tour. Not only did YSAC reduce the cost of the show and tickets, we also were able to provide two undergraduates with the opportunity to open at Woolsey Hall, allowing for a wider range of comedy styles.

With the extra money not used for Fall Show, we had the ability to host more events as well as put more into our Spring Fling budget. We’ve spent weeks and long nights arguing over which artist or band Yalies would prefer, debates were driven largely by the polls we sent out.

Sometimes, though, poll results go out the window because of extenuating circumstances, such as when a band doesn’t tour, or an act’s price goes up, or when a performer gets consistently negative reviews. Then we’re in a crunch because we no longer have time to reissue a survey. But we relish such challenges. The student body elected its representatives because it believed he or she was up to the job.

As the third YSAC chair, I believe that the committee has come a long way since its humble beginnings five years ago. YSAC can only improve with your input, creativity and involvement with campus life. With its dedicated representatives, I have no reason to fear that YSAC will become irrelevant. In fact, its future has never seemed brighter.

Thomas Hsieh is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. He is the YSAC chair.

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